PRSA Buffalo Annual Meeting Features Leadership Address

The PRSA Buffalo-Niagara Chapter held its annual member meeting on Thursday at Templeton Landing along the waterfront, complete with a two-part presentation on leadership and strategy, 2012 program highlights and ratification of the 2013 slate of board officers.

There were 28 attendees who registered for the members-only preliminary session that ran prior to the general luncheon, which had 64 attendees [including seven new 373040_111686772196066_1896378247_nmembers]. Results from the chapter’s member survey results scrolled on a projector while the year’s highlights were outlined, including recognition of a new APR certification recipient, recap of June’s Excalibur awards and  the recent college mentoring partnership with the Advertising Club of Buffalo.

Jim E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, an industry leader in crisis communications and executive consulting was brought in by the chapter to be the keynote speaker for both sessions. The program planning committee did a great service by distributing a link to both of his presentation decks to all members two days before the event as he had a lot of material that couldn’t be fully covered [if you are a PRSA member, you can access the PowerPoint slides on the chapter website’s program archives].

A collection of takeaways from the opening session on leadership, which he generally covers in four hours, follows:

  1. Public relations practitioners have to engage in “Private Relations” on occasion when dealing with executives seeking to avoid media attention.
  2. Empathy is such an important leadership trait and demonstrating it through actions more than discussions goes a long way for positive public perception.
  3. Achieving a higher level of influence and credibility doesn’t come from just doing a great job. Being well-read is essential, business publications such as the Harvard Business Review provide many great studies, trends and best practices.
  4. When providing counsel to the C-suite, brevity and clarity are key ~ and be assertive in instructing executives to take notes to show your input is being heeded.
  5. As a rule, you can fit 150 spoke words in a minute with the English language. Human retention for reading and hearing is around 100 of these words. Repetition and concise language is necessary to reinforce your expertise.
  6. Leadership is a group activity but not necessarily a democracy. Leaders assert their will to harness the power of willing participants to strive toward great accomplishments.
  7. Being a natural leader is great but also embrace the study of leadership and the various successful styles that exist across different sectors.
  8. Leaders are always people of tomorrow. Since everyone has already experienced yesterday, it’s not fodder for productive dialogue. Leaders find new horizons to achieve that energize organizations.
  9. Remove negative words and common phrases ~ they are confusing and corrosive. Strive for simple, sensible, constructive and positive language.

Below are a few highlights from the luncheon keynote about developing the mindset of a strategist and having the proverbial “seat at the table” with senior management:

  1. Public relations practitioners not only are a constant source of ideas, but they also have to engage in solution finding to properly influence the decisions of executives.
  2. Public relations leaders must be generalists through the lens of communications when providing incremental advice. Being versed in strictly media relations is not sufficient to assume a mainstay role at the table.
  3. Everyone is familiar with the “two-minute drill” in football to rally for the tie or win, but you need to have a “three-minute drill” in public relations and corporate communications for providing strategic counsel to executives, who only have a sliver of attention on the disciple most of the time, that comprises a brief introduction, analysis of the situation and the “whys” that come with it and concise, constructive recommendations.
  4. Even if you achieve a coveted seat at the table, you must still be willing to change and comprehend what you need to do to maintain the trust, respect and influence of executives. Regardless, you may often find yourself in the “YOYO” state of “You’re On Your Own.”
  5. Candor is truth with an attitude and your organization’s management will need it and come to expect it from its public relations department.
  6. Having and providing information to the top floor well before they need it – or know they need it – is what will differentiate your role as a trusted big-picture advisor.

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